BIG Sign: "Please do not enter here. Use back entrance. The bar areas are closed …"

I wander round the back, my dog on his lead. "Ap ap ap ap! You CAN’T go down there! You can’t be in here with your DOG!" barks the manager, someone I know.

I looked at my dog wondering if he had suddenly caught rabies.

"Did you not see, the sign on the door says go round the back…"


"We are closed, sorry. Open later, six. Tables only. Don’t go down there, you need to go out that way." I left the way I came in, almost walking into someone.

I call back later. A man with a large face mask like those worn by CCTV recorded burglars "We stop serving in 10 minutes." Hurry he was saying, I want to go home.

"I’ll just have a …"

"No no no! Don’t tell me what you want, have you not read the sign?"

Go online, Order with the waitress, pay via card.

"But there is no phone signal here."

"You’ve got five minutes left." More Anxiety.

‘Listen, I’ll just have a soup’.

"We have more than one soup, you need to go online…"

"Give me any soup, I don’t mind. Surprise me."

The barman relents. Ten minutes later a deliciously unusual cheese and chilli concoction arrives, home-made bread, herb butter, all in disposable paper containers.

The food delicious, atmosphere tense. I’d come to the pub to have something to eat and maybe a brief chat with someone, like you do in a public house. But everyone had scoffed and scuttered off quick.

"Can I bring my dog over now everyone has left?"

"Oh you can bring your dog outside".

The government has advised no dogs in pubs to stop the spread of the virus. But they are all right outside, the waitress now stroking Buzz.

I sat on my own a while, savouring the flavours but wondering with its entire absence what it was I loved about the place.

John is a film director and a writer from Uppermill.